Shrine Bowl Interview: South Carolina State’s Shaquan Davis Hopes To Be Next HBCU-To-NFL Standout

The South Carolina State Bulldogs’ program sure knows how to develop NFL draft prospects that ultimately go on to have successful careers. From the likes of Pro Football Hall of Famers Donnie Shell, Harry Carson, Deacon Jones and Marion Motley, to productive guys currently in the league like Darius Leonard, Javon Hargrave, and Decobie Durant, the HBCU program is a serious pipeline to the NFL.

Wide receiver Shaquan Davis (6046, 217) is aiming to be the next SCSU standout to NFL receiver in the coming months, and based on his tape and performance throughout the week in Las Vegas for the 98th East-West Shrine Bowl, he is well on his way to doing just that.

Speaking with Steelers Depot earlier in the week from inside the players’ lounge in the Velvet Room at the Luxor Hotel & Casino, Davis said a close relationship with Durant — whom he went against every day in practice before Durant spent the 2022 season with the Los Angeles Rams — played a huge part in his decision to come to the Shrine Bowl and showcase his talents on the big stage early in the draft process.

“When I was like in the process of making my decision, I leaned on him a lot, you know, because like you just said, he’s fresh through the process and he just went through it and I just kind of leaned on him, you know?” Davis told Steelers Depot. “Because I really didn’t have nobody in my immediate family who went on and got the opportunity to play at professional level.

“He told me, you gotta be ready. He was like, ‘the day’s are gonna be long. It’s gonna be a lot of interviews, not having no free time,'” Davis added. “It’s just locked in, just football from meetings to interviews to install, everything like that. So he’s basically told me, if that’s what you feel like you’re ready for, go ahead and take that leap. And I took it amongst myself. I was like, ‘all right, that’s what I want to do;. So I’m just gonna lock in mentally and just focus on this right now. I can do whatever I want later on after I get establishing a leap.”

Davis, who also spent some time playing basketball at SCSU, had an impressive three seasons for the Bulldogs on the gridiron. He caught 128 passes for 2,647 yards (20.6 yards per catch) while pulling down 29 career touchdowns. His breakout performance came in the Celebration Bowl against Jackson State when he hauled in three touchdown passes as SC State upset Jackson State.

The big-play receiver had a career season in 2022, hauling in 45 passes for 934 yards and nine touchdowns for SC State.

Though he got off to a bit of a slow start making the leap in competition at the East-West Shrine Bowl, Davis came on strong during the week, making some impressive plays throughout the week in team sessions and 1v1 sessions, where has been rather difficult to defend thanks to his size and speed.

He’s flashed very strong hands and easily plucks the football out of the air. On deep balls, he tracks the football very well overall and has a very similar build, gait and tracking ability of one Martavis Bryant, who dominated for the Steelers for a few years. Currently, that’s a popular comparison for Davis, who is honored to be compared to anyone that played in the NFL at a high level.

“Just being compared to anybody who’s in the professional level, just being me being compared to them, you know, coming from a small HBCU, that’s a blessing, especially that,” Davis said.

Leading up to the HBCU Combine in New Orleans February 18 and hopefully the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, which he does not have an invite to — yet, Davis is working with Yo Murphy in Tampa at House of Athletes, where he’s also getting the chance to learn and work with Pro Football Hall of Famer Isaac Bruce and Pittsburgh native Brandon Marshall.

Getting that opportunity to work with two guys that did it at a high level in the NFL at his position has been quite the experience for Davis. Though he hasn’t had the chance to fully deploy what he’s learned from Bruce and Marshall as a bigger receiver, which is making his chest unavailable against press, having that opportunity to learn in real time and in person from those two guys has made Davis a better receiver in such a short time.

Outside of the in-person help from Marshall and Bruce, Davis finds himself watching a lot of bigger, physical receivers in the NFL today, like Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans and Julio Jones, and Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins, trying to take things from their games to implement into his. While that might not be his game exactly in the NFL as a size and speed guy, he does have a basketball background that helps him win at the catch point when called upon.

For Davis, there’s a very real, tangible crossover within his game from football and basketball at the position.

“With the route running, say with DBs up pressing and I have a deeper route, I can like peel them at the line, you know, hit them with a crossover and then go,” Davis said. “With the 50/50 balls, just going up and looking at it like a rebound, you know, every board is gonna be mine, so I’m gonna go up and get it. And just when the ball is in my hand, I can make the defenders miss as well.”

That skillset, along with his speed that he believes will come in around the high 4.3s, low 4.4s at the Combine, has NFL teams rather intrigued by the next HBCU product out of SC State that could step into a contributing role right away in the NFL.

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